Did you know that 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease? Twenty-six million American adults suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD), the ninth leading cause of death in the country, and millions of others are at increased risk. Washington, D.C., has the highest prevalence of CKD in the country.
Did you know that African Americans are three times more likely to experience kidney failure than Caucasians? African Americans also constitute more than 35 percent of all U.S. patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but only represent 13.2 percent of the overall U.S. population. In addition, nearly half of African Americans have at least one risk factor for kidney disease.
As a response to these staggering statistics, the Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center was established at the George Washington University (GW) in 2015, through a generous gift from The Ron and Joy Paul Foundation, to address the urgent need for community awareness of kidney diagnosis, treatment, and donation. The center works hand-in-hand with the GW Hospital Transplant Institute and MOTTEP, the National Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program, to deliver the widest spectrum of kidney disease education, prevention, and treatment options available in the city.
“Joy and I felt very strongly that if we could better educate the community, then we could hopefully reduce the amount of kidney failure,” says Ron Paul, chair and CEO of Eagle Bancorp and Eagle Bank and founder of the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center. “Should somebody be in end-stage renal failure, we want to be able to educate them on transplantation. It’s all about awareness and education. That’s what we’re going to be promoting through this center.”
For Paul, the center strikes a personal note. In the 1980s, he was diagnosed with glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease that can ultimately end in kidney failure. “It came out of nowhere,” he says. “I didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, no diabetes, no high blood pressure, no issues at all other than I found out I had kidney failure.” Eight years later, Paul faced a decision: a lifetime of dialysis or a kidney transplant. He chose a transplant, and his brother, Steven, provided the needed organ. The donated kidney lasted far beyond its typical lifespan, but in 2008, Paul learned he would need another transplant. Again, he received a donation, this time from a longtime friend and chief financial officer of his company.
Organs from live donors are ideal; they shorten or completely eliminate a patient’s need to be placed on a waiting list or on dialysis, and the short- and long-term survival rates tend to be better than people who receive kidneys from deceased donors. With outreach from the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center, the Pauls are hoping to tip the balance of kidney supply and demand, a move that could potentially save the lives of many D.C. residents.
In 2016, the center launched a series of ads featuring CBS Sports/News broadcaster James Brown as part of an awareness campaign. The ads, which highlight symptoms of kidney disease, have run on the D.C. metro area’s cable networks. Coupled with Metro bus ads, radio, and digital ads, they have also educated and motivated people to speak with their doctor and get checked for kidney disease — or to call the GW Ron and Joy Paul Center for screenings and provider referrals. In addition, the center hosted a series of screening events and educational lectures and is working in partnership with MOTTEP, the GW Medical Faculty Associates, the GW Hospital, and the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences to educate the community.
Most people don’t find out they have kidney disease until it is very advanced, but by catching kidney disease in its earliest stages, patients can work with doctors to manage their symptoms and lead a healthier life. To learn more about the GW Ron and Joy Paul Kidney Center and its screening and educational events, or to learn about kidney transplantation at the GW Hospital Kidney Transplant Center, please visit GWKidney.org or call 202-715-4330.